` How to be a successful young director in 2023 - Directory

How to be a successful young director in 2023

In my role as a commercial director’s manager I’m constantly being asked for young directors, everybody wants the next hot talent. The truth is though, that while clients are looking to break boundaries, typically they want the trust that comes with a more experienced directors portfolio, so young directors are forced to develop their work themselves until the industry gods decide their time has come.

The industry is ruthless and there is often no true guide for young directors looking to break through. Young creatives get taken advantage of and are often pigeonholed into the work they do to pay the bills. The most successful directors, in my mind, all share similar traits of determination as well as laser-focused clarity on their strengths and what their portfolio will look like in one, five and ten years.

There are a few key things every young director needs to be aware of:


Take control of your portfolio

Nobody is going to give you the opportunity to shoot the work you want to create at this stage of your career, so beg borrow and steal to make it yourself. Prove to everyone that you have the ability and invest in yourself. A great director is a problem-solver, so you had better work out how to make your portfolio pop. Treat your portfolio like your CV, it’s the first thing anyone is going to want to see and it’s essential that it’s well-curated and current.


Work out who your competition is

The industry is brutal and your competition in 2023 is even more so. Try to understand whom you are competing against at your level and who the directors at the price point above you are. Aiming for the stars and seeing who is shooting Super Bowl commercials shouldn’t be discouraged, but what can you offer that sets you apart from your direct competition right now? Young directors should be devouring portfolios ravenously, picking apart what makes their competition stand out so they can constantly learn how to improve. Great writers read, great directors watch.


Adapting to new technologies

With the rapid advancement of technology, young film directors need to be prepared to adapt and incorporate new technologies into their work. This includes new camera equipment but more importantly, Virtual Production. Clients are always looking for ways to maximise results while keeping budgets tight, a director who refuses to incorporate these new advancements and jumps at the opportunity to play with them is putting themselves at a disadvantage.  What happens when your competition has built a portfolio of work featuring new tech that you haven’t gotten to grips with yet? Make friends with your closest studio and study, study, study.


Creating content for social media professionally and personally

You will be expected to be able to deliver projects that suit multiple platforms, so make sure you keep yourself updated with what is trending. More importantly, though, the new generation of content creators is publishing work built on relationships direct-to-client. Your competition is no longer the camera nerds slogging it out at film school, but those content creators savvy enough to understand what brands want. Your social media profile should reflect your work and the sort of person you are to work with. Agencies need to be excited to work with you and your social media platforms are your best resume, keep them alive and vibrant. You are your own brand, make sure clients want to collaborate with you. The rulebook has been completely torn up and directors are winning projects by hitting up clients in their DMs, so don’t sleep on how important your online presence is.


Be hungry but have someone stand up for you

Too often young directors eager to impress will work for peanuts or, worse still, for free to try and snag a client. In my experience, this rarely leads to a steady working relationship as those who would have freelancers work for free tend to just shop around finding other happy servants. The best thing a young director can do is speak to a commercial director’s manager about how they can develop their career. An agent should be able to give you a breakdown of what their expectations for your career should look like based on your current work and how you can continue to improve. An agent will open up opportunities for you and protect you should anything go awry on a project (trust me, we’ve seen it all!). Be careful though, there are many charlatans who claim to promise work with nothing to back it up. Stick to an ADA member to ensure you are working with a professional.


There is no simple path to follow to have a career as a commercial director. However, I am still yet to find a director who doesn’t have the tools to find their space in the industry, often an outside look at a director’s portfolio can help them identify what their true strengths are. As an eternal optimist, I still believe there is genuinely enough work for everybody, it’s simply a case of making sure you are open to searching for it and knowing where to look.

If you found this article helpful please feel free to reach out, there is always greatness to be explored through conversation.


Scott Pugnetti is a commercial director’s manager for Aylene Gardiner Agency and Equals MGMT. As well as his work developing directors he dedicates his time to the ADA, an association committed to improving working conditions for directors globally.

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